Who Was that Masked Rabbi?

Here’s a small world story. I was looking around on the web to see if Atlanta band DQE, a group I’ve loved for many years, has a website. I want to put them in as band of the day. I googled on them, looking for such, and ran across this page about some kind of special CD. I turns out that this guy is Douglas Wolk, the dude who owns and runs DQE’s label, Dark Beloved Cloud. For his wedding invitation, he put together a CD of bands on his label and sent it out. Now here’s the small world part – elsewhere on the site he talks about the ceremony which is to be held in NYC and performed by Rabbi David Honigsberg. I know him! I interviewed him live at Dragon*Con on my last ever live remote in 1998 (along with the rest of the Don’t Quit Your Day Job Players). Even before that, I briefly met him and his wife Alexandra at the World Fantasy Convention in 1992 at Callaway Gardens. Still no DQE website, but this coincidence is quite cool.

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Today I browsed around a little, and saw that my boy Paul Melancon
will be opening for the Indigo Girls in November! Good for him. Whilst
browsing around their site, I found this article by Amy Ray debunking the
notion that lesbians currently control folk music
. It makes for
interesting reading.

What if a few mediocre, straight, male rock bands were used to
epitomize a whole scene? Would we blame Pearl Jam for creating a
limited genre and encouraging bad musicianship in others? All one has
to do is flip through commercial radio channels to see that mediocrity
in every form but gay is being sliced, diced, and marketed to us all
in the name of advertising dollars. This rampant mediocrity is a
symptom of a corporate music empire that encourages segregation of
audiences for reasons of profit rather than community.

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I did get the lawn mowed yesterday, so that was good. I’m not
embarrassed walking into the front door now.

TV TopicWe rented Sopranos, season three, volume two this weekend. I like Joe
Pantoliano on this show. I like him in everything, but his character
Ralph just emanates such bad vibes that I’m suprised he is still
alive, particularly after his brutal beating of one of the dancers in
the parking lot of the Bada Bing. I cringe every time he is on screen,
even more so than I did for Richie Aprile. I also remain amazed at how
completely unsympathetic they are willing to make the main
characters. The scene where Tony confronts Angie Bompencero, smashing
out her car windows with a bat and giving the impression he was going
to kill her dog, was a good example of that. Another was when Carmella went
to the hard-assed therapist who refused to hear any excuses about her
complicity in the gangster lifestyle. We have to face the fact
that after we finish the second half of season three, we have a year
or more to wait to see any more.

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Did a little work at WREK today. I went in and did an hour on the air,
testing my new interface that allows live DJs to enter their music the
same way the robot does it now. When this is in use, the current song
will always be up on the WREK page, which I find really cool. Not sure
what you heard? Look it up on the web, it’s there.

I’m at Georgia Tech right now, logging in (blogging in) from my wife’s
computer in her office. We are doing something that involves cycling
vacuum pumps in her lab. Actually, I’m doing Google research on
icecast MP3 streams and the metadata thereof. She’s doing whatever
with the pumps. This is all moral support. I hope I can get home and
mow before it rains. I’ve been waiting since the grass is so wet, and
will have to mow it that way even though I don’t want to. It looks
like we are growing alfalfa for livestock in our yard, the grass
is so high. It’s been raining every day and always too wet to mow. Must
bite the bullet and do it today. One minor upside of the drought was
that I didn’t have to do a lot of mowing.

Into the Treehouse

Music TopicOn to more fun things, a band of the day. This one is new to
me, which I found out about because of WREK. They are called Treehouse Project. Earlier this week, a
music director had a problem with the web UI while programming tracks
from this album, so I had to fix it in the database which made them
stick out a little in my memory. Today, I had to
look up their record label’s web site to add that into the DB and I ended up
browsing around a little (an occupational hazard.) I listened to their
MP3s and they are really cool! It’s a jazz band but with pedal steel
guitar, which gives it a country twang. Here is their their MP3 page.

Create this

This creationism thing is still eating at me. I’ve heard a lots of
good comments from people I’ve talked to. One coworker points out that
a lot of this seems to stem from a misunderstanding of how the
scientific method works. The word “theory” says to them “Hey, this is
still up in the air” and “This is less than a fact.” He points out
that a theory has more rigor than a law, since a law consists of
observations but a theory describes the mechanisms as well.

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Cobb Country, just north of Atlanta and where I used to live, passed a
resolution in their school board meeting last night requiring the
teaching of creationism. I watched some footage on the news, and it
was the same tired crap, “Evolution is just a theory, Darwin only
thought it was a theory.” Well, yes, and we have a couple hundred more
years of good science since then, all of which verifies it. Other
theories which were “only theories” at that time: disease being caused
by organisms rather than humors; the existence of particles too small
to see that make up matter.

I cannot believe modern American fundamentalist Christians, whose
faith is so weak that if the whole world doesn’t act in accordance
with their beliefs, they feel threatened. I cannot believe their
literal interpretation (“If it says in the bible God made the world in
6 days, that means 144 hours!”) of the English text of a book written
in Hebrew and Greek. If they want to be so literal, shouldn’t they be
literal about the source text and in the context of the traditions at
the time it was written? I cannot believe that they believe in a God
who would create a man so capable of amazing abilities of thought and
rationality, to pick out patterns from all the noise in His creation,
and then find it against His will to use the abilities He gave
them. What a terrible way to live!

I present now, with permission, a parody press release from my friend
and one-time coworker, science and science fiction writer Mark Bourne. If you ever
saw this circulating on mailing lists a few years ago, Mark wrote it
in 1999. The fake date is exactly one millenium before the day he
actually wrote it. It is more relevant today than the day he wrote it,

*AMENDED 10:44 AM* Mark e-mailed me and pointed out that he did
NOT write this from whole cloth, but embellished something he found at
Irascible Professor
, which actually states the originator as the
Johan Kuno named in the piece. So, for those of you
scoring at home, credit Johan Kuno for the concept and Mark for
rewriting it such that it reads just like an American creationist
press release.

Oskarshamn, SWEDEN, October 29, AD 999:

Today, a group headed by Johan Kuno passed a new law which states
that teaching meteorology in Swedish schools is against religious
belief and faith. Norse Mythology teaches that Thor, the god of
lightning, is responsible for all atmospheric phenomena. Lightning
bolts are _not_ naturally occurring electrical discharges — they are
caused by the hammer of Thor. Thunder and rain are also brought
forward by the Mighty Thor. There can be no other morally acceptable
explanation for these phenomena.

A few meteorologists complained, calling this measure “a ludicrous
proposition that will send us back to the Stone Age”.

Kuno responded with this statement: “This so-called ‘scientific
method’ is nothing more than a trick of Loki upon a few misguided
doubting rabble-rousers. We modern Norsemen, though favored by the
fifty-seven true gods, have forgotten the values and virtues fostered
by our fathers in the Stone Age. Why, if cutting out the eyes of your
enemy and drinking his blood from a cup mounted between the breasts of
his wife which you have made your own was good enough for our fathers,
then by golly it’s good enough for us.”

Swedish right-wing Vikings are physically powerful and therefore the
school board passed the new law after only two mugs of frothing mead
— an unprecedented event in Swedish legislative history.

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Music TopicCurrently I’m listening to one of the better shows at WREK, the
psychedelic show Psych Out. It’s really good, and you can listen to it
any time via the MP3 archives. If you like psychedelic music at all,
60’s style or modern, American, British or Japanese, give it a
listen. You can hear it in High
or dialup
versions from the MP3 archives, any time you like. Ain’t
technology grand?

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A week after I first was afflicted, I begin to feel human again. I’m
still kind of coughing and snotty, but Sudafed is taking care of the
worst of it.

Interesting report from Gallup
that puts Democrats generally ahead for this election cycle. This came
from Phil Agre’s Red Rock
Eater’s News Service

PHP lessons learned

I did a little more work on the WREK web pages today. I do believe I’m
to the point where I can bat out PHP pages that do a number of DB
tasks pretty simply. I’m at the point where I have the hard won
knowledge. Here are a few of my nuggest that I’ve learned, all the
hard way.

– At least for Oracle and mysql, use the FetchInto type functions and
get your results as associative arrays. There is a runtime hit, but it
makes your code much much more readable than cryptic index based
functions like “OciResult(, 3)” that force you to count columns in
your original SQL statement to see what the hell is going on.

– If you are getting a number of results to present as a table or
list, save them off into an array of the arrays from above. This
allows you to do your own sorting which might be different from the
database’s “order by”. It also enables cool things like
allowing people to sort differently via HTML forms with minimal

– Create one or a set of files you include in standard pages. If you
have a utility type function that you find yourself cutting and
pasting into another page, don’t. Put it in the utility include
instead. Otherwise, you’ll one day find yourself fixing a bug and then
having to grep to find all the files you put that bug in. Past it in
the include and remove it from all your PHP pages.

– Use source control, even for your own trivial projects at home and
even if you are the only person touching the files. There is nothing
like having that history to fall back on, and just being able to avoid
having all those “file.old”, “file.backup”, and crap like that is
worth it. I’m on the cusp of installing Subversion to try it out.

Ponzi blogs

It appears to take more to get in the Ponzi scheme than I’ve got. I
submitted this URL to Blogdex a month ago, and it
just started crawling it in the last few days. I can see the
statistics, and out of the 10,000+ weblogs, there are 0 links to
me. Sigh. I knew that one of the problems with doing a standalone
weblog is that you don’t have the built-in community/blogrolling that
you get for free with LiveJournal or Userland. Maybe someday I’ll post
something sufficiently pithy to get a few freaking links. With this
damn illness, I’m lucky to be posting anything.

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Back at work. I don’t really feel that much better, but this is the
best I’m going to get anytime soon. Water, OJ, Sudafed and then let it
roll. There seems to be two major camps in sickness vs. work
issues. There is the “Sick days are for wussies” camp, of which my
boss is a proponent. These are the people who think that it would be
such a productivity hit to not work for a day that they come in ill
and infect everyone else, causing the loss of many workdays across
many people. The other school is the “Why should I schlep in ill for
this? That’s my philosophy.

Maybe this is just because I am sick and cranky, but almost everyone
is bugging me lately. This is coworkers, friends, people online,
people on mailing lists, people offline, everyone. I’m so sick of
having the same few arguments over and over on the same subjects over
and over with the same few people. I’m ceasing to argue on every
subject indefinitely. I’m not an evangelist, so I’ve decided that I
don’t give a shit about changing anyone’s mind on anything for a
while. Believe what you want to believe, do what you want to
do. Maybe one day I’ll resume, but not now.

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Out of work again with a relapse on this cold. I’ve been finding it
hard even to weblog. Here is something that I ran across via a post on
DM.net – an article by Col. David Hackworth questioning
the headlong flight to war
. I’m not familiar with WorldNetDaily,
but it has commentary by local (to Atlanta) Libertarian talk show host
Neal Boortz, Dennis Prager and others. Interesting.

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I’m learning more about various logging packages – Log4j for Java and its
Perl port, Log4perl. I’ve gotten tired
of doing ad hoc logging/debug statements in my programs. I think as an
experiment I’m going to look at using both of these packages.

Fat, Greek

I’m finally starting to feel a little better. If this was a workday I
would be up to going to work. My mother-in-law is in town this
weekend, and yesterday we went to see My Big Fat Greek
, which I liked quite a bit. I especially like how it
was atypically Hollywood, in that the transition from frumpy girl to
pretty girl was not that dramatic and while pretty enough, the “after”
transformation woman was not a stunner. I get very tired of Hollywood
judgements of beauty, such as The Truth about Cats and
, where Uma Thurman is the pretty girl and Janeane
Garafalo is the ugly girl. In almost any other context in the world,
JG would be considered attractive in her own right. I have like John
Corbett for a long time, and thought he did a great job. I expected to
enjoy the movie, but it was quite a bit better than I thought it would

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More SUV stuff, this time from The Car Talk guys, including
the “Need a SUV quiz?” I’d like to see a study on how many accidents
are caused indirectly by SUVs, by the fact that drivers in normal
sized passenger vehicles can’t see around them. My personal SUV goal –
I’d like to see them require a special class of license with a
mandatory SUV driving test. I’m tired of dodging Lincoln Navigators
that cross the center line when their drivers can’t handle
them. Forget terrorism, I have much more immediate risk to my life and
safety posed to me by drivers of Ford Excursions talking on their cellphones.

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I didn’t even write anything in here yesterday because I was too sick
to even focus long enough for it. I had foolishly gone into work and
then faded fast and by lunchtime I was ready to just put my head down
and go to sleep. I came home and watched a couple of those MST3K
episodes on my laptop, with it lying on my belly on the couch. I gave
up the VCD path, just watching the AVI files directly and then
deleting them. It turns out that one I downloaded, The
Incredibly Strange Creatures blah blah Mixed up Zombies
what I thought it was. I had already seen that one. For some reason, I
was thinking that was the movie where Rosie Greer got a white man’s
head implanted on his shoulder. On the agenda for today – sleeping,
OJ, and cartoons.